Zvyagintsev elects a Russia composed of tree bones, arid winter clouds, fogged panes, and vacant skyscrapers. So, a Zvyagintsev Russia of redolent acrimony. But, for an auteur whose always penned his mark with pessimism, he’s managed his bleakest. One could sever themselves from the inundating bulldozer of misanthropy, Leviathan. But in Loveless, is that possible? You will succumb to and wallow in its oily despair.
The lovelessness is inherited. Mother, Zhenya, long-jawed and sculpted like an Olympian enhanced in a lab, is the aseptic spawn of a God fearing, paranoid, and sadistic Christian. Father, Boris, round like his given name, can only speak to his parents through a seance. So, their accidental 12-year-old son, Alyosha, silver-eyed and pale, is congenitally unloved. Spite is the warmest hand he’s dealt. It beats indifference.
Before Alyosha goes missing his only pastime is suffering. The film allows him a single moment of un-anguish. On the walk home from school, he finds a stick with a party streamer caught on it. He estimates he’ll throw it into a tall, dead, tree. It catches in the high branches from which it’s visible but irretrievable. As visible, and irretrievable, as the joy of the kids playing outside Alyosha’s bedroom window, or the nebulous dreams characters conjure through the film’s many murky panes.
Another Zvyagintsev trademark returns, a ruinous portrayal of invariably every Russian Bureaucratic institution. But in Loveless, there’s an exception, a volunteer search party organization that’s, almost satirically, vastly more capable, efficient, and organized than the police or any other portrayed form of bureaucracy.
Politics and Media remain directly linked to individuals lives, again, too. If a Government behaves nihilistically that nihilism has influence. When a new doomsday’s advertised across the world, the end of the Mayan calendar, it’s hard to separate that apocalypse timeline from your own life, according to Boris and his coworkers, according to Zvyagintsev. When that time comes and the world hasn’t ended, but yours does, what then?
This deluge of cynicism, broadened to encompass everyone in Loveless, diluted whatever truth Leviathan would have had. It works in this case because a primordial story’s lent to the attitude, and the nefarious actions of its solipsistic characters don’t push us away but bring us closer to them. Leviathan allowed itself warm tones to contrast the cold. The tungsten light in Loveless is oppressive and scarce. This film is only cold, and coldly mad. When characters peer out their windows, and into their dreams, the reality of their eye line is winter, dilapidated city, and dead trees. Where tempers sweltered hot red in the foreheads of Leviathan, they freeze over, blue, in the lips of Loveless.